At the ‘YIAGA Community Organizing Training’, Youths Charged To Take Over Their Communities
Sobering yet revealing, upsetting yet telling, the current wave of social discontent and agitation for better governance has not had its highest input from the Nigerian youthful population.
Year after year, statistics have shown that the Nigerian youthful population has increasingly distanced itself from social and political engagement.
This is revealed by the sobering statistics that less than 25% of Nigerian youth voters fulfilled their civic responsibility in the 2019 general elections.
This troubling situation, coupled with its vast implications and suggestions for possible solutions were all put to serious deliberation at the YIAGA 2022 Community Organizing Training for young professionals, students, activists and politicians drawn from every cadre of the Lagos State Society.
Between May 29 to June 1, Moremi Hall of the Sheraton Lagos Hotel played host to staff of YIAGA Africa and 40 carefully selected assortment of university undergraduates, social entrepreneurs, activists, journalists, writers, medical professionals and lawyers who had converged to participate in the 2022 edition of the Community Organizing Training program of YIAGA.
The five day intellectual excursion witnessed an array of speeches that merged theory and practice of community Organizing and encouraged the young participants to begin to take charge of their communities.
According to keynote Speaker, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, Professor of Political Science, Lagos State University, the strategic nature of Lagos State makes it important for the state youths to be more active in the affairs of the state.
‘Lagos leads in everything.
Lagos is not just the economic hub of the country, it is also cosmopolitan, as it converges all interests, ethnic groups and races. It is also supposed to be the hotbed of vibracy in everything- including the economy and politics”.
According to Odion-Akhaine, youths should participate in elections because when they don’t, they enable rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices.
He further highlighted voter clusters, youth coalition and voter collection observation exercise and civic and voter education as potent tool to help trigger positive change in the society.
“There is the need for youths to help rebuild party structures and advocate for an independent candidacy.
“To be able to achieve this, you have to show interest and contest with the current contradictions in the present political system”, he added.
According to Barrister Efemena Ozugha, a member of the YIAGA Africa Organizing team, there is the need for organizers to tell their stories in order to help them beat public narrative and also create an identity.
“Telling your own story helps you beat what others tell about you. You make your story open to distortions when you allow others tell them for you.
“Telling your story helps you build your identity, create choices, motivate and inspire action and build courage for positive social change”, she added.
According to the Director of Programs, YIAGA Africa , Cynthia Mbamalu, the role of organisers involve not just creating leadership teams and making demands, but inspiring social change by empowering people to take charge of their communities.
“An organiser is expected to identify his people, work with them to identify their issues and help them towards identifying and attaining their goals. An Organizer inspires action by creating a shared story , relational commitment, structure, strategy in order to create a shared measurable action”, she added.
Mbamalu added that for organizers to make positive changes in their communities there is the need for them to have shared values with their constituents and also network with organizations with similar interests.
Chief Executive Officer, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo harped on a sustained collective action by youths in terms of voter mobilization and change bearing within communities.
“You are going to face various challenges in your communities. Opposition could come in the form of powerful elites or institutions, religious institutions, godfathers, street urchins and several other groups whose interests conflict with your advocacy.
“All of these people can be won over only through sustained collective action”, he added.
The event was drawn to a close with groups of participants drawing up ideas for organizing practices, from voter apathy and people with disability inclusion in the voting process, to data gathering and monitoring on the electoral process to issues of marginalization of minority groups.
The Community Organizing Training cohorts then proceeded to the streets of Alausa Ikeja, where people were then conscientized on the need to get their PVCs
“This is a very rewarding experience for me. I basically enjoyed how theory and practice merged. I am more than ever encouraged to urge others o register for their PVCs and take back our country in 2023 “, he added.
YIAGA Africa is a civil society organization committed to entrenching Democracy, Governance and development across Nigeria, Africa and the World at large.
It was reputed for championing the #Nottooyoungtorun bill that was passed in over 20 states of the federation between 2017 and 2019.
The Community Organizing Training has been held in Sokoto and Lagos States, funded by the UK Aid.